The Prophet Isaiah talks about the root of Jesse in Isaiah 11:10-12.10: "In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious. (RSV)..." Jesse was the father of King David and thus the ancestor of Christ. From the image of the root as ancestor, the Jesse Tree developed into a motif in art in Eastern and Western Christianity. Above are some beautiful examples I collected.
The Jesse Tree is a genealogy of Our Lord depicting all the important ancestors. This wonderful way of remembering salvation history has given birth to the Jesse Tree Advent tradition which you can adopt and adept for your family. All you need is some kind of tree structure on which to hang symbolic ornaments, one for each day of the season. The ornaments are usually circular and can be as simple as paper or cardboard cut outs. The tree can be as simple as a vase with some thin branches like the one I pinned on the board above. There are daily Scripture readings accompanying the ornaments.
The first reading and symbol is usually the creation of the universe with a sun symbol. The last image is, of course, the baby in the manger. However, there are variations of images.
The Roman Catholic Church has a 25 day Jesse Tree tradition beginning on the first day of Advent, December 1. You can find a list of the Scripture readings on this PDF. You could print out his free set of ornaments or this free coloring set.
As Eastern Catholics we observe the same 40 day Jesse Tree tradition as the Orthodox churches starting with the Nativity Fast on November 15. Antiochan.org has the daily readings as well as beautiful Root of Jesse readings from the Byzantine liturgy. This free printable set has 52 ornaments, 40 for the Nativity fast plus 12 for the 12 days of Christmas.
There are many beautiful handmade sets available for purchase on Etsy.com, 25 day sets as well as 40 or 52 day sets which you could also use as models to draw your own.
Welcoming the Christ Child by Elissa Bjeletich is a wonderful Orthodox Jesse Tree book sold with a 40 day set of beautifully illustrated ornaments.
Unlocking the Jesse Tree by Kathryn Rose is a complete Roman Catholic Advent curriculum with plenty of activities for different ages complete with a lesson plan. It includes the Jesse Tree, Advent wreath and the Oh Antiphons.
Enjoy your Jesse Tree activities in this blessed advent season!